Thol. Thirumavalavan, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader and Parliamentarian who faces a ban on entering Villupuram district, following recent incidents of violence, used new media to transcend the physical barrier and addressed his cadre virtually.
On May 26, the VCK leader addressed a couple of events held in Nellikuppam and Cuddalore town, and a wedding, from his office at Velachery in Chennai, using Skype.
Villupuram Collector V. Sampath, on May 16, clamped prohibitory orders invoking Section 144 (1) of Cr.P.C., which prevented Thol. Thirumavalavan from attending any public or private meetings or functions in Villupuram district. “I was barred from travelling through road via Villupuram which had indeed prevented from attending meetings in Cuddalore. This made me use Skype on that day to reach the cadre,” Thirumavalavan told The Hindu on Friday.
The VCK had already claimed in the legal forum that the ban on holding public or private meetings by its leaders was neither justifiable nor acceptable and was tantamount to infringement of their democratic rights.
However, an interim order on his petition in the High Court permitted him to travel through Villupuram district to reach his constituency Chidambaram on May 30 and 31 in accordance with his Parliamentary Committee on Local Area Development Scheme tour programme.
The VCK’s effort seems to exemplify the possibility of an alternative public sphere to reach out to the public through the social media. Madras High Court, advocate Lajapathi Roy said teleconferencing could not be seen as a violation of law as it states that only physical presence is subject to infringement. However, the ban itself is against freedom of expression which is a constitutionally guaranteed right and he should be allowed to meet the victims of violence.
Dalit political parties and movements are often ignored by mainstream media (except for a few) and the Internet thus reinforces the idea that new media can open up new channels of communication and create new forms of public discourse, and this is a welcome attempt by VCK, said Dalit writer, Stalin Rajangam.